Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Difference between map and trail distance?

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Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Difference between map and trail distance? on 08/09/2013 16:49:38 MDT Print View

"How do the sign makers know how fast I hike? distance is a known number.. you can calculate your time and speed from that."

When I did my first trek in the Mount Everest Region of Nepal, I noticed some of the trekkers would ask the Sherpa guide: "How far is it to the next village?" They expected to hear something about two miles or five miles.

Instead, the Sherpa would say "It is one day's travel to that village." --or-- "It is one half day travel to that village." That perplexed the trekkers. They could not think in terms of a distance being a half day. I figured that was just the way it was there. Part of the reason is that there are no highways, there are no cars, and there are no car odometers, so a Sherpa has very little way of knowing just how far a mile is, and the Sherpa has never seen a rolling wheel measuring a trail distance.

As it turned out, that Sherpa was wise. He knew how much time it was going to take the trekkers just from past experience. He also knew that the fast hikers were often the first ones to fail from high altitude problems.


Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Difference between map and trail distance? on 08/10/2013 09:51:51 MDT Print View

I've found trail signs to be pretty unreliable in terms of mileage. The worst in my experience are Forest Service signs; NPS seems to do a better job, but I still don't trust them. I treat them as directional indicators only - they are pretty reliable in that regard - and estimate time/distance from the map as always.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Difference between map and trail distance? on 08/10/2013 15:29:10 MDT Print View

> I still think it is easier to put a known mileage than it is to put a guesstimated time.
Yes, it is easier, but it can be misleading, possibly fatally.

There's a section on the Western Arthurs in SW Tasmania called 'the Maze of Beggary'. We KNOW it is about 2 km long. So how long will it take you? Oh, about 8 - 10 hours. You may need rope. The crux, if you can call it that, is a flying jump down across a gap. Dunno how you reverse that move.


Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Difference between map and trail distance? on 08/10/2013 16:44:03 MDT Print View

That is where the guidebook comes in handy?

how did we get from signs vs gps in the white mountains as per the OP to off trail, 4th class?

I know, for me, that i hike 2-2.5mph on all but the steepest stuff in the white mountains.. slower on steep downhills. that information is useless to someone else, especially the heavyweight weekend warriors and day hikers you get up there. On the Long trail in VT we ran into a group that did our 1 day mileage in 3 days.

as someone said, maybe it is different outside the US but around here it's by miles.